Image: Voting in Iran elections from U.S.
Jonathan Ernst  /  Reuters
Poll worker Bruce Eslami helps voters check in to vote for president of Iran at a polling place for Iranian citizens living in the Washington area, at the Islamic Education Center in Potomac, Md., on Friday.
updated 6/12/2009 4:52:17 PM ET 2009-06-12T20:52:17

Iranian expatriates and their children living in the United States cast ballots Friday in the Middle East country's heated presidential election between incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a reformist who favors greater freedoms and improved ties with the U.S.

Voters around the country gathered at 41 voting sites, mostly at hotel and mosques staffed by volunteers. Long lines formed at some locations, while voter turnout in Iran was expected to hit a record.

Ahmadinejad was defending his seat against Mir Hossein Mousavi, who served as Iran's prime minister in the 1980s. The election was open to expatriates and their children who have valid Iranian paperwork. Many are legal U.S. residents or citizens.

The U.S. Census estimates about 414,000 Iranians live in the United States, with more than half residing in the West.

Amin Khadem, a 21-year-old Iranian student in Los Angeles and an election volunteer, said he had a civic duty as an Iranian "just like an American likes to participate in their elections."

About 15 protesters, many of whom were supporters of the previous regime, waved pre-Islamic revolution flags and called for a boycott of the election.

"I'm here for my country," said Sathi Hajimoradi, 80. "For 30 years, these Islamists have terrorized the country."

Vote for 'a reasonable person'
Sayed Hashemi, a volunteer running a voting site at the Hyatt Regency Irvine in Orange County, said he expected about 1,500 people to cast ballots there. By Friday morning, people were waiting about 20 minutes to vote.

Yasha Kishipour, a 32-year-old architect in Costa Mesa, said he voted for Mousavi and that he was especially keen to see a change for women in Iran. He said his mother's dance salon was shut down by authorities.

"They want to vote for someone who can change, or at least make better the whole system," he said of relatives in Iran.

Shahab Baniadam, 51, said he had been in the United States for 30 years and it was his first time voting in Iranian elections. He said he voted for Mousavi and that he "seems like a reasonable person."

Electrical engineering student Sara Saedinia, 28, said she also voted for Mousavi because she hopes he will improve Iran's relations with the world and restore credibility to her country's passport.

"I am a U.S. citizen, but I feel bad in the airport when they search Iranians," she said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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